Sunday, February 24, 2019

Simple And Sinister - First session

Yesterday was my first session under the Simple & Sinister kettlebell exercise program.  My introduction to the kettlebell as an exercise tool was via Pavel Tsatsouline's Russian Kettlebell Challenge VHS videotape and book of the same name.  I still have the same 16kg kettlebell (KB) that I ordered from Dragondoor, back when that company was the only source in the US for KBs and KB training books and videos.   

Simple & Sinister is, I believe, Pavel's latest book on KB training.  It describes a simple training program focusing on just two exercises to  - in a general sense, not for a specific sport.  The program looks ideal for those of us who desire an exercise program to improve our strength, stamina, mobility, and athleticism but have to conserve time and energy for other activities.  The program appears to be an improved version of the minimum training program described in the Russian Kettlebell Challenge book, and kind of a return to the minimalist approach espoused in Pavel's Power To The People book (the two barbell exercises that Pavel thought that regular folks only really need), and his Naked Warrior book (only two bodyweight exercises regular folks need to focus on for maximum strength).  The two exercises of choice in Simple & Sinister are the Swing and the Turkish Get-Up.  As with Pavel's other books, all I can say is read the book to see why Pavel thinks these are the only two must-have KB exercises for people who aren't training for some specialized purpose, like a competitive sport.

I love the warmup routine for Simple & Sinister.  Only 3 warmup exercises to do, and they're done in 3 circuits.

I did the 5 sets of  10 2-handed swings with a 24kg KB as recommended in the book.  They got my heart rate up, but I was able get through this portion of the program without much trouble.  I'm not going to try to jump to the next weight level (32kg) yet, as I need the leftover energy to focus on prepping myself for the Turkish Get-Up.

The Turkish Get-Up (TGU) with the 16kg KB was a different story.  When I first heard about this exercise, there was some instruction given to start the movement, but not much detail was given on how to progress from lying on one's back with the KB held perpendicular to the ground, to standing with the KB held overhead.   My form in this movement was never particularly good, even when I was regularly training with KBs.   My form was pretty bad in that I nearly lost my balance and felt close to dropping the the KB.

Simple & Sinister teaches a much more detailed version of the TGU, broken down into specific positions.  It is different from the version taught by Pavel in the Enter The Kettlebell video, in which Pavel transitioned from the prone position into the bottom of a sort of overhead squat, then stood up.  In the book, the TGU instruction has the trainee gradually transitioning into a lunge position, then standing up from there.  I can only suppose that he refined this movement over the years.  I'm sure the book explains better than I can why he arrived at the present form of the TGU.

The book recommends practice of the TGU while balancing a shoe on one's fist instead of holding the KB.  Not only does it recommend practicing the TGU in its entirety with the shoe; it also recommends practicing the TGU in segments, as transitions between the prescribed positions.  The idea is that if you can do the TGU with the shoe in this manner in your sleep, without dropping the shoe, you will be ready to start practicing it with a KB.

So I'm going to practice the "shoe TGU" after the prescribed warmup and before the swing portion of the program.  After the swing portion, I will replace the TGU portion with a mini-circuit of KB presses and reverse-lunges with a racked KB.  Control of the body while going into and out of the lunge was a weakness of my Turkish Get-Up, so practicing the reverse lunge should help with that.  The presses would be just a way to keep strengthening the shoulders and practicing locking out the arm with the KB overhead without losing the shoulder pack.  I don't care about how many reverse lunges and presses I can do - these are just exercises I can use for strength training until I'm ready to do KB TGUs.  Perfect form with the shoe TGU will determine my readiness for it.  I'm guessing it will take at least a week of shoe TGU practice before I can take on the KB TGU with less risk of an accident.  One key element of the movement that was causing me trouble was placing the heel of my bent leg too close to my butt.  The heel has to be further out to create the necessary leverage to drive the body up onto the elbow.

The cooldown portion of the program is short and sweet, just like the warmup - a circuit of the 90/90 and QL stretches, optionally followed by brachial hanging from a pullup bar.

Today, I feel quite sore in the glutes and hamstrings, which was not unexpected given this was the first KB training session I'd done in years.

A TGU tutorial by Karen Smith, who is shown demonstrating the TGU in the book - she mentions the use of the hip hinge as part of the transition into the lunge: